NHL Rumor Mill – August 28, 2019
An update on Jesse Puljujarvi plus the latest on the Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE OILERS AND PULJUJARVI?
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector believes Jesse Puljujarvi’s plan to play for the Finnish Elite League’s Oulun Karpat could benefit the Edmonton Oilers. He has until 5 pm ET on Dec. 1 to sign his qualifying offer or be ineligible for the remainder of the season. By late November he’ll have played around 24 Liiga games. If he performs well, it could help Oilers general manager Ken Holland fashion a trade.
The fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, Puljujarvi requested a trade earlier this summer after struggling with the Oilers.
Holland admits he’s had conversations “with numerous clubs” that have had “an interest, some interest, in acquiring Jesse.” Holland added he’s had “two or three new teams reach out to me” in the last 10 days. The Oilers GM said he’ll do a deal if it’s in the best interests of his club.
If Puljujarvi stays healthy and productive in Finland, Spector believes the winger will be traded by mid-November. He feels the unhappy youngster has “almost certainly” played his final game as an Oiler.
TSN’s Ryan Ryshaug believes the Oilers’ asking price “is a prospect with top 9 F potential and a draft pick.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If someone steps up with that asking price, Puljujarvi will be traded. The problem is it appears no one is yet willing to make that offer. Maybe that changes if a rival club’s lack of right-wing scoring depth causes them to stumble from the gate.
As “Cousin Mark” suggests, that’ll depend on Puljujarvi’s performance and health playing in Finland through October leading up to mid-November. If he’s playing poorly or gets hurt, the winger’s trade value will hit rock bottom.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck wonders how long the contract impasse between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner will drag on. He draws comparisons to last season’s standoff with William Nylander, which wasn’t resolved until Dec. 1. It’s believed Marner’s situation is delaying other restricted free agent signings around the league, as those players could be waiting to see what he gets on his next contract.
Marner is making plans to practice with a Swiss team if this situation drags on through training camp. Billeck believes no one knows for certain when this will be resolved.
Turning to head coach Mike Babcock, Billeck thinks a change behind the bench is possible if the Leafs fail to stage a deep playoff run next spring.
Billeck’s colleague James O’Brien notes the pressure faced by Leafs GM Kyle Dubas to get Marner re-signed and his relationship with Babcock. He also notes Dubas must eventually find new deals or replacement for defensemen Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Marner situation could be resolved when the season opens in October. That’s when the Leafs are expected to place permanently sidelined wingers David Clarkson and Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve. That will allow the Leafs to spend over the $81.5-million cap ceiling by up to their combined $10.5 million, which could be what it takes to get Marner under contract.
Rival RFAs could be waiting on Marner but they won’t wait for long. As training camp approaches in mid-September, I think we’ll see several signings. Most of those players won’t want to risk missing training camp or preseason play.
Babcock will certainly feel the heat if the Leafs struggle this season or suffer another first-round playoff elimination. Cap Friendly indicates he’s under contract through 2022-23 earning over $6 million annually. However, the deep-pocketed Leafs won’t flinch at replacing him before that deal expires.
As for Muzzin and Barrie, that depends upon their asking prices. The Leafs currently have over $55.4 million invested in 11 players for 2020-21. That’ll likely jump by at least $10 million once Marner is re-signed. The Leafs have only one defenseman (Morgan Rielly) under contract beyond this season.